Unboxing my childhood

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When my parents set off on their greatest sailing adventure* over ten years ago, our belongings entered a storage unit. This summer they opened that repository, and a couple of weeks ago, my childhood was returned to me. It turns out my childhood fits in seven boxes.

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Just two hours away lies Paris

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Well, two hours fifteen minutes but that doesn’t have quite the same pith to it. And what a two hours fifteen minutes it is. I’ve done some long train journeys in my time  – 55 hours between Ulan Ude and Khabarovsk in Russia being my record – and it’s left me with a real taste for this form of travel. The trip on the Eurostar was no exception.  I love the way train travel reinforces a sense of connection between destinations – you see one slip away and another emerge out the window; a contrast with the cloud-covered ascent and descent of flight.

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Gardening // Saving water all summer

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Water is life-giving. It’s consistent – in how it flows, fills the space it enters. But water is also fluid, changeable. Abundant in some places, absent in others. It is easy to be casual with water when it springs readily with the turn of the tap. The emptying reservoir lies unseen.

Water is local. The drops we thriftily save will not, then, be available to people in drought-ridden East Africa. That’s not how water works. But it doesn’t mean we should be wasteful with it. The water from our taps has already been through the energy-intensive treatment process to make it safe for us to drink. It seems a shame, after all that, to pour it all over our unfussy vegetable plots.

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Making the most of your veg box

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Roald Dahl novels made a big impact on me as a child. One in particular – the BFG – left me ever grateful for the food I enjoy. The novel’s titular character has made an ethically motivated decision about his eating habits, which means he has to make do with the foul-tasting snozzcumbers.  He needs and has food to eat but it isn’t a pleasant experience. This story made me routinely glad that I don’t just need food to survive; I enjoy sufficient freedom and access to be able to avoid what is distasteful to me and devour what tickles my taste buds.

I’m grateful that the ethical choice doesn’t have to be an unpleasant culinary one. Ethical options are increasingly available and affordable, and don’t mean a compromise on taste (frequently the opposite). Solutions often overlap, but what constitutes a ‘good choice’ will depend upon your motivations: animal welfare, supporting independent businesses, going organic… One of my primary drivers is reducing our carbon footprint. This lends itself to a diet dominated by locally grown vegetables that aren’t over-packaged in plastic. So we started to order a weekly veg box.

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Toil

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One day’s work would be enough. Enough to transform the garden at our previous house from ramshackle to haven. It was essentially a blank canvas: a square patio edged by an empty bed on two sides. Turn over soil, dig in compost, two hours planting – and it would have arrived. A garden is never finished, but this one would have at least become a coherent entity. Time would only improve it. That ‘Rome’ was built in a day.

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